Why did we choose Michelle?
Michelle is a missionary that we heard bits and pieces of her story. She is young, with a cute family and very approachable. We met her one evening in her home. She cooked burrito bowls that tasted better than Chipotle. We started the interview after explaining to her husband that we do not creepily record/ take notes when talking to all of our friends, but we were actually interviewing his wife about her life and time in Asia.
Michelle grew up in San Diego, California where she attended a large high school with a graduating class of 700. During her sophomore year, Michelle went through a rebellious time when she sought popularity, coolness, and other high school glories.
God used emptiness and depression during this time to open her heart and mind to him. A conversation with her dad asking, “Where is God in all of this?” reeled in her mind. A song on a CD Michelle’s mom gave her featured a lyrics about God claiming us for himself drew another hard contrast against Michelle’s belief that God is far off and people live their lives alone on earth apart from him. She said, “This whole time I’d been this prodigal and I’d messed up royally and I knew that, and yet God was gracious enough to put his son on the cross for me. But also claim me and say your mine.”
God used people, books, songs, and circumstances in Michelle’s life to show her that she needed him and that He loves her and wants to have a relationship with her.
As God showed Michelle who He is, He began to change the way she thought and lived her life. Her friends at school began asking her what happened, and why she changed.
Call to Missions
Michelle’s year of rebellion affected her grades enough that she spent the first two years of college studying at community college before acceptance to Berkley where she studied advertising.
During college, Michelle struggled with depression. This suffering humbled her and at this point in her life she was reading a chapter in A Purpose Driven Life titled God’s Purpose For You in the World and it became clear to Michelle, that God wanted her to spend a summer on a missions trip. She remembers the particular prayer where she surrendered to God’s leading, kind of. She prayed, “I will look for a trip to go on, but God I do not want to be a missionary. It’s for other people, it’s not for me.
She spent a summer in East Asia where God captivated her passions yet again. When she returned to Berkley in the fall, her passion for advertising could not be rekindled. She finished out her college career and developed a strong connection with an advertising firm where she interned. They planned to create a position for her to join their staff after graduation. However, their budget would not allow for Michelle’s position.
She was not disappointed, but took the opportunity to apply for a full-time missionary position and return to the country where she’d spent the summer. Michelle describes the four years between the calling to mission and actually getting to the mission field as “being in the passenger seat.” This time was not without trials by any means. Michelle did not have the support of her parents as she moved forward raising funds and learning a completely new language.
After four years of preparation, she left the land of beauty, with temperatures of 50-70 degrees to a land that reached 30 below, with an ambiance of gray, smog, smoke, broken buildings, rubble, slums, and high rises.
During her first year abroad, Michelle recounts a vivid memory of God’s provision and help during one of her first experiences describing Jesus to one of the nationals. She and a friend befriended a woman who was a security guard. They would get together periodically and Michelle would listen as her friend described who Jesus is by telling the story of the Bible. During one meeting–before Michelle was fluent in the native language–her friend asked if she would describe how she came to know Jesus personally. She recalls, “It was like I could hear myself speaking, and I knew I had learned most of this stuff but when you learn a language you learn it whole lot but to retain it is a whole other deal… [but] everything that I needed at the time had come together to share with this woman.” Michele looks back on this experience and says, “God did that.”
“Some of my favorite memories,” Michelle says, “was doing the Bible studies with the college aged girls.” What began as one on one English lessons, bloomed into a girl’s Bible study after one of Michelle’s students declared, “Michelle, I really need to study the Bible, can you get me one?” This girl’s curiosity about Jesus motivated her to bring her friends to a small group discussion about the Bible and how they could know Jesus.
During Michelle’s year abroad, she met Curt. They returned to the states for four months to get married before venturing back overseas for a renewed ministry commitment in a smaller city of two million.
Together, Michelle and Curt owned and managed a Tex-Mex restaurant that employed nationals. An experience, which they concur, strengthened their marriage and stretched their capacities.
Michelle and Curt returned to the states with their first baby, Izzy, on the way. She is an energetic and adorable two-year-old who insists on referring to herself in the third person when speaking. “Izzy adorable” is a favorite quote. Izzy is expecting a baby sister this winter.
One of the ways Michelle stays connected with her friends overseas is through her business, Starfish Project Jewelry. Starfish is handmade jewelry made by women who have left prostitution as their lifestyle. Starfish is a ministry operated by women who befriend girls at known brothels and offer them a new lifestyle living at one of Starfish’s three homes, employment making handmade jewelry, and holistic development covering a gamut of topics from hygiene to spirituality.
What we learned from Michelle’s story:
One of the things that stood out to us from Michelle’s story was the juxtaposition of hardship and joy during their second stint in Asia. She and Curt struggled to keep the business afloat in the middle of ethnic tension in the city and managerial issues but these struggles required them to rely that much more on God’s provision.
As Michelle told us her story, it was so clear that God has always had a plan for her life. It was fascinating to hear how God gradually changed her from a rebellious teenager to a woman of character who genuinely loves God and other people.